National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.

 

In the yellowed and storied pages of National Fisherman's archives, I ran across a 1958 report from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on fisheries research difficulties.

The results of the 50-year-old report are fascinating to me in light of an article from the August 2008 issue of Fisheries, the journal of the American Fisheries Society. That article describes how habitat degradation and invasive species contribute to a severe decline in freshwater fish species. (See this week's Fish eNews for more on that topic.)

Most fishermen would tell you that fishing effort is not the only contributor to the decline of many species. U.S. fisheries are so severely managed, that it's fair to say if it's not recovering, then we ought to examine and tackle a broader spectrum of causes.

(Most industry proponents would say we ought to do that with each and every rebuilding schedule, and I can't say I disagree.)

What's so frustrating is that the Atlantic States commission was saying that 50 years ago. Here's an excerpt from the report, as quoted in National Fisherman:

"Perhaps the most serious effects of human activity, though they are not obvious at first glance, are changes produced by alteration of marshlands, for example, drainage and real estate development, deposition of spoil from channel dredging, deepening and widening of existing channels, construction of dams and other engineering works, diversion of river runoff for domestic and industrial use, and many other factors.

"More readily recognized are the effects of pollution by sewage and industrial wastes, which in their most obvious manifestations kill fish and other animals, but which may also have much more subtle and hidden effects upon growth, feeding, spawning, and other activities of marine life.

"If this question were simply one of protecting marine life, the solution might be relatively simple. It is complicated, however, by the rapidly expanding technological development of our civilization."

The report goes on to stress that we cannot deny technological development. However, with the growing green/efficiency boom, we know what the power of combined public and private effort can do to effect change.

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Trout LemonCaperSauceThis recipe for two is great with any texture of white fish, from flounder to shark. I tried it with a river trout recently and just about ate my weight. The flavors are all Mediterranean, so I paired it with a Caprese-style appetizer of mozzarella, tomato and basil on soft bread. Add a comment

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An article this week on the decline of shark populations is decidedly dour, which may well be justified in terms of the raw numbers.

However, as usual, the blame is squarely placed on the shoulders of fishermen.

To be fair, fishermen (both commercial and recreational) have taken lots of sharks in recent decades, but what this report omits is the fact that the federal government (which is now being praised for restricting shark landings) was promoting shark fishing as an underutilized species and handing out permits like candy on Halloween.

"Tired of not being able to fish your traditional fishery?" they said in the 1970s and ’80s, "Then go catch shark!"

Can we really blame fishermen for taking on a seemingly healthy and lucrative fishery that the government was promoting?

What's worse is the only quotes this article has from shark fishermen are about how little money they're making now. I'm sure they had plenty to say about that, but I would be shocked to hear that not one of them complained that the government led them into this fishery and is now cutting them out of it.

You might even say they are getting finned. Reeled aboard, stripped of their only means to stay afloat and tossed back to sink to the bottom. An illegal practice on sharks is alive and well when it comes to U.S. fishermen.

This is the kind of thing fishermen should write letters to the editor about. I invite you to write to us, as always. But more important, read the article linked above and write to these good folks: Medill News Service, 1325 G St. N.W. Suite 730 Washington, D.C. 20005; (202) 347-8700; s-angrand@northwestern.edu.

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Sen. Ted Stevens has been the talk of the town in Washington this week, and no doubt also in his home state of Alaska.

There is no doubt Stevens has dedicated his long political life to reaping benefits for his state. What seems to be questionable at this point is whether or not he accepted personal bennies without disclosing them.

I'm no Beltway Buff. I think politics can be very interesting, but I get pretty tired of the corruption on both sides of the aisle. What I have come to accept, however, is that you just don't get things done in Washington without scratching a few backs and greasing a few palms.

Isn't this true in most places?

Don't get me wrong: I think we have to discourage this kind of behavior as much as possible, but it's the way things have run in politics since "et tu, Brute." There is no loyalty in democracy.

The way I see it is if you're going to bring down a sitting senator who has served for decades and can't be too many elections away from retirement, shouldn't it be for something mind-blowing?

Worst case here is that he accepted home remodeling in exchange for the opportunity for some government contracts and he decided not to disclose it. The best case is that he forgot to disclose it, and Veco didn't get contracts directly because of it.

In a decade in which seemingly respectable elected officials in Washington have been accused of inappropriate philandering with underage pages and soliciting sex in public bathrooms, the Stevens case simply does not blow my mind.

I'm the last one to call him Uncle Ted. I've laughed with the rest of "The Daily Show" viewers as he described the Internet as a "series of tubes" and at various other temper tantrums on the Senate floor. But c'mon, guys. He's 84 years old.

I find myself recalling the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. It just feels like a huge waste of American money, and to what end? So we end up with a sound bite and a trite phrase or two?

So Stevens spent some lobbyists' money to fix up his house (which is not exactly palatial), and now the feds want to spend my money prosecuting him.

I say let the good folks of Alaska decide his political fate.

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If you've met Phil Ruhle Sr., you won't forget him.

I was introduced to him in November, when he and his co-researchers were receiving the World Wildlife Fund Smart Gear award for the Eliminator trawl at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.
072508 Ruhle
Today, the beleaguered New England groundfish industry is suffering another blow. Ruhle's boat, the Sea Breeze, capsized and sank in a storm off of New Jersey Wednesday night. Two crewmembers were rescued by the Coast Guard, but there is no sign of Phil.

Phil's raspy voice and big blue eyes always conveyed the concerns of his fellow fishermen. He was passionate about fishing, his family and the future of the industry.

Our paths crossed several times in the last year, as he worked to promote the Eliminator trawl and have it approved by the New England council. He is an old-timer who remembered the glory days of fishing and has worked his hardest to get us back there.
I loved listening to him, because while he was fueled by frustration, he was determined to do whatever it took to make things right for the next generation.

It has been an honor to know you, Phil.

Bright summer goes, dark winter comes, —   
  We cannot rule the year;   
But long ere summer’s sun goes down,   
  On yonder sea we’ll steer.

From "A Ballad of Sir John Franklin," by George Henry Boker

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Really, Exxon? Really?

Fans of "Saturday Night Live" may be familiar with the news anchors' segment "Really?"

The gag is that they make ridiculous statements based on ridiculous current events and then ask the scathing rhetorical question, "Really?"

In the Exxon Valdez case, it would go something like this: So you just got your court-awarded damages reduced to one-tenth of the original amount, and now you REALLY want to make sure you get to keep the interest you've accrued on funds that are not and never were rightly yours while your legal team kept the fishermen whose livelihoods you've ruined at arm's length? REALLY?

Is Scott Boras on the Exxon legal team?

If you're not a baseball fan (and I use that word in its original sense, because you would have to be a fanatic to follow Alex Rodriguez's contract negotiations), then you may not know that Boras was A-Rod's agent until recently. He's the one who got him the biggest deal in baseball history and then followed up with a hissy fit last year, which he pitched on the opening night of the Red Sox (read: A-Rod and the Yanks' biggest rivals) and Rockies World Series.

It was as if Boras couldn't stand to be out of the limelight, no matter how much it made him and his client look like complete jerks. (There are lots of words I would have preferred to use there, but I don't want your Internet filter to keep you from coming to our site.)

Sound familiar? Only in Boras' case, he was only taking money from Major League Baseball, where there's plenty to go around.

Meanwhile, the Exxon lawyers are doing their best to be the Anti-Robin Hoods.

The greed in professional sports is nauseating. Exxon's is downright sickening.

Cut the checks already.

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A great white shark was allegedly spotted from a beach on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts this week. The sighting resulted in two of the island's big, popular beaches being shut down.

One of them is South Beach, a sand beach known for its surfing waves. When I lived on the vineyard many years ago, it was common knowledge that great whites swam those waters. I understood it to be a surf-at-your-own-risk location. The south side of the island is fully exposed to chilly Atlantic waters.

But the island is in the midst of peak tourism, so beach closures aren't surprising. On the bright side, maybe folks will spend more time in the clam shacks, ordering local fare and funding island fishermen's diesel bills.

I take the sighting as just another sign that our ocean ecosystem is alive and well. It seems that the deep waters of New England are still able to support the largest of predators.

If only we could convince our management council of that.

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The big start to Maine's summer and seafood season begins this (and every) Fourth of July weekend. Tourists pour into Vacationland seeking lobster; fried haddock; clams, steamed or fried, bellies or strips; fresh scallops; and oysters, along with the traditional accompaniments of slaw, biscuit and fries.

One of the quintessential places to satisfy a hankering for fried and steamed seafood is the Maine drive-in. These are not to be confused with the hamburger stands of 1950s fame. You will not likely find skate-clad waitresses (most of the parking lots are gravel — ouch) or paper hats (these cooks cover their crowns with caps touting high school baseball teams and lumber suppliers).

However, much like the reputation of the old-school drive-ins, there is something innocent and serene about these seasonal eateries. Maybe it's just Maine in the summer with the smell of warm salt air, or the fact that everyone gets out of their cars to order at the stand-up window and plops down on often-sticky picnic tables to feast on a sea of golden yellow fare.

(And in typical Maine fashion, locals rarely refer to these places as "drive-ins." They just call them by name, so if you don't know the closest one, good luck getting directions!)

My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner at the Bayview in Penobscot. It was certainly not fancy, but when it came to choosing how to feed all of my family from across the country and all of his family, mostly from right here, it was a no-brainer. Who can complain about delicious, fresh seafood at the brink of the water in perfect summer weather with just enough breeze to keep the bugs at bay?

Whenever I think about that day, I am so glad I shared that place with so many people who had never been to Maine. It's just one of the little things that makes this state and our country a great place to live.

Here's hoping your Fourth of July, wherever you are, is a celebration of something unique about this great nation.

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In a miraculous turn of events, Australia and Japan have called a truce at the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, this year in Santiago, Chile.

The two countries have joined a small working group that will work to bridge the whaling gap.

Japan has volunteered not to hunt humpies in the Southern Ocean this summer (that would be winter to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Australia agreed, in turn, not to pursue international legal action in the hopes of reaching an international agreement on how to handle research whale takes.

It's no surprise that the Aussie government is now under full attack from some environmental groups.

I'm no gung-ho advocate for whale hunting. But I believe that strong-arm politics are rarely effective and thus must be used in moderation. What's the point of making whaling illegal if those who still want to hunt whales can just call it a scientific sampling? Effectively, it's not illegal.

For every controversial issue, there's at least one group whose life's work is to fight tooth and nail for each side. But at some point, we must put down the harpoons, get out of the Zodiacs and sit down at the table.

Will Greenpeace ever be able to abide any whale hunting? That's doubtful. But maybe, just maybe, opposing political factions can figure out a more reasonable system to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to partake in a limited whale fishery that does not threaten the species and reduces illegal takes.

At least the IWC is moving in that direction.

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The charter halibut bag limit controversy in Southeast Alaska sure is stirring the pot for charter boat owners and recreational fishermen. They all seem quite horrified by cuts to the charter boat angler's daily allotment from two fish to one, and claim they simply won't be able to survive if the ruling stands.

Welcome to our nation's fisheries management process.

How many times have commercial fishermen pled loss of business in the face of dwindling allocations, had the ruling stand anyway, and then gone out of business?

The standard retort is, "That's what you get for overfishing." Well, I could go on a long tangent about water quality, runoff, overdevelopment, cheap foreign imports and other factors of some species and market decline.

But what I will say instead is that a charter fleet is just as capable of overfishing their quota as a commercial fleet is. In some cases, they are more risky because their numbers are not always reported.

Maybe the charter guys should band together to establish charter IFQs. That way, the guys who go out of business can get bought out by the guys who have enough business history to stay in it.

I don't want to sound cold or eager to toss legitimate tourist business aside (I live in Vacationland, so I get it, believe me). What I would like to see is commercial guys taking advantage of recreational publicity to shed light on their own industry struggles.

What I would love to see is the recreational guys joining with commercial interests to keep everyone in business.

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National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 1/13/15

In this episode:

Council hosts public hearing on Cashes Ledge
Report assesses Chesapeake water, fisheries
Warmer waters shake up Jersey fishing
North Pacific observer program altered for 2015
Woman aims to crowdsource lobstering career

National Fisherman Live: 12/30/14

In this episode, Michael Crowley, National Fisherman's Boats & Gear editor, interviews Chelsea Woodward, an engineer working with the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office to design static guards for main drum winches used in the side trawl fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

Inside the Industry

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is still seeking public review and comment on the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management Conformance Criteria (Version 1.2, September 2011). The public review and comment period, which opened on Dec. 3, 2014, runs through Monday, Feb. 3.

Read more...

NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.

Read more...

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